In Pursuit of The Spanish Ibex

ibex hunting in spain
Mark points at Ibex on the summit of this perched hill.

Ibex hunting in Spain has a strong following and for good reason. The pursuit of this game animal distinguished by its large recurved horns in its challenging but scenic terrain has alluded hunters for centuries. Steep slopes, unreachable terrain, slippery rocky hillsides and possibly longer shots, make this an adventure worth pursuing. This experience has fascinated hunters time and time again.

ibex hunting in spain
source: wikipedia

This year has been somewhat uncertain for everyone however this group of avid European hunters managed to just slip on a plane and make their way to Spain just before Covid restrictions began to clamp down again scrambling to control the situation. I caught up with them to learn more about this Ibex hunt in Spain. I have many questions about this adventure so let’s get cracking.

ibex hunting in spain

Hi Mario!

It’s a pleasure to catch up with you after your adventure in Spain, fresh from the ‘rockies’. I see you guys had a great time in Spain.  Unfortunately my target shooting events this year took up most of my available time and had to skip this one for a business trip to Germany. Nonetheless, my phone kept buzzing with updates, pictures and shaky video clips taking on the move.

I’m aware Ibex hunting goes back thousands of years Mario- reportedly they found this meat in Ötzi’s the iceman’s stomach. I see where the calling is coming from but what attracted you to hunt Ibex in Spain Mario? I’ve been on a hunt with you to the French Pyrenees for mouflon and chamois. How is ibex hunting different, what is so special about Ibex hunting in Spain? I know you’re very passionate about wild boar hunting so this is a slight twist to your usual European hunting trip.

Mario: The chance to take a long range shot on open ground attracts me, once I feel confident enough in my rifle to ascertain a clean kill. (Editor’s note: After experiencing mountain hunting and the challenges it brings with it together with a better understanding of longer range shots, Mario got hooked on this sort of hunt.)

ibex hunting in Spain
Early morning views

Getting to the hunting location

Rod: Which part of Spain did you visit on your hunt? Tell us what is the terrain like and do you recommend any specific equipment? (Clothing, shoes, rain gear)

Ibex hunting in Spain
Driving to our destination in Spain.

Mario: From Madrid we were picked up by Danny our Outfitter and he drove us to Castillia-La Mancha where we stopped to check our zero on the scopes. The wide open spaces, mostly flat ground looked spectacular in the good weather. In less than an hour our PH contacted the owner of the area where we intended to take the shots, we stopped for a short break in our 3 hour drive and once refreshed with a real cortado we checked our rifles and resumed our journey.

We arrived at an idyllic place called Salobre where we had our accommodation in a quaint Guesthouse. Salobre is hemmed in between some spectacular hills and mountain. We were lucky because the weather was just right with temperature slightly above normal for November at 16 deg C. However during the night this plummeted down to 1 to 3 deg.

Hunting Ibex in Spain
Mario and Mark – two long time friends enjoy a few moments of celebration on a successful ibex hunt in Spain

Hunting clothes needed to be light camo, given that the strenuous climbing up steep cliffs would ensure warming up. During mid-day temperature reached 20 deg plus.  Good trekking shoes are a must especially with ankle protection.

What do you recommend taking with you on an Ibex hunt in Spain like this?

Besides a comfortably slinged rifle, a light back-pack to  hold a water bottle or flask for coffee and with the wisdom of hindsight I would recommend a torch preferably with a head attachment. A good bino with range finder is a must. My Leica Geovid truly proved its worth.

Glassing for Ibex in Spain

How much glassing is involved in an ibex hunt like this?

Danny and another guide kept a good watch in the strategic cliff tops for any movement. I would follow up with my bino to observe animals’ movement.

ibex hunting terrain in spain
Breathtaking scenery over here in Spain. This alone must be the first pull factor to many visiting the region.

Rifle setup for Ibex hunting

rifle shooting wind reading
Above; Mark lines up for a shot in the mountains in France using his Browning Maral and Swarovski scope fitted with windage and elevation adjustment turrets.

Tell us abit about your rifle setup, what are you using? I learned you switched to the 300WM for this hunt from your favourite 6.5creedmoor, how come? Do you feel it was a right match and what ammo/bullet were you using?

I took the right decision when I opted for my Mauser M18 wooden stocked in 300WM cal. A trophy Ibex could weigh anything from 80 to 100 kg. Injuring an animal would require tracking and some of the cliffs and mountain edges where the animals were mostly likely to be seen could be a huge challenge for a novice climber like me. Although my Sauer in 6.5creedmoor could be ideal for a lighter animal such as Roe deer or Chamois even up to a range of 500 to 600 metres, the relatively light bullet at 143 grains put me off.

stalking with Leica Geovid HD-B 10x42
Glassing with Leica Geovid HD-B 10×42 and Swarovski ATS 65 Spotter

What’s the average distance you get on an ibex shot? I know this is always a hot issue but realistically speaking what distance are you expecting shots to be around here?

Given the nature of these animals which are excellent climbers, I figure a 300 to 400 metre shot would be mostly likely, although a chance shot on an animal at a shorter distance is possible especially during the rut, when male hormones would make a potential trophy animal a bit more reckless. I my case I had a chance to take a beautiful animal at around 500 meters and my rifle outfit proved itself. The 300 win mag round, a Hornady ELDX 200 grain bullet zoomed true and hit the animal in the neck/upper-chest zone causing instant collapse. The ballistic table and advice you gave me made all this possible. (*Mario and me had run a rifle setup weekend together to get his rifle and March scope setup for this sort of scenario before another trip to France to hunt mouflon and Chamois in the Pyrenees.)

Above: The reticle in Mario’s March scope which allows for easy compensation for wind. Mario dials all his longer distance shots.

My March Scope was on 20x (5-40x–56) and I had my Tactacam on at the time. The shot was particularly difficult because my stick was not long enough to allow me to take a shot at an incline of around 35 to 40 degrees.  The animal was walking slowly when I took the shot and after the report of the gun, I actually heard a distinct thump! My PH was seeing all on his bino and was dumbstruck at how this shot hit its mark!!

Featured article below:

factory long range hunting rifles browning maral
Above: Mark’s Browning Maral in 30-06 was devised for running game but as we tested it, it shoots amazingly well to 600m. Check it out.
Browning maral 30-06 groups
Browning maral 30-06 groups at 600m during testing. We trued our ballistic tables to get them spot on.

I know you’ve done a lot of hunting internationally both in Europe, UK, Asia and Africa, your walls at home are about to cave in with the numerous trophies you have collected from your international hunts. Can you tell me more how you go about choosing the right outfitter for your needs? You’ve learned a thing or two along the way and as I recall, you had your fair share of rogue encounters too.

I often take trips with a close friend of mine, Mark Anthony Buhagiar, who is a well known taxidermist, working in Europe’s top Natural History museums. Mark has many outfitter contacts all over the world and this helps to source out the best hunting. I am already planning another trip to Spain for a Sierra Nevada Ibex.

ibex stand shoot
A target setup purposely for training out to 515m ahead of the hunt to check the ability of the hunters in making a shot in the field under timed conditions. Notice the 3 shots in the center of the target just right of the white aiming spot.

Can you describe the experience on the day you caught that huge ibex at abt 500m? Run us through that morning so we can get a feel of it with you.

This was the first day we went hunting. It was the 15th of Nov and we had driven to Valencia from Salobre leaving our accommodation very early in the morning. When we reached our hunting destination we had a truly hectic morning running, climbing hills and mountains. Only young animals and females were seen. In the afternoon Danny took me to a huge Orange plantation at the foot of several mountains.

Juan the owner of the plantation informed Danny that he often notices Ibex groups raiding his orange trees. We started glassing the steep hills, and saw several female and young males. At one point Danny saw a huge Ibex at 500 m and I ranged it and took the shot. My gun kicked and with the Tactacam attached broke my glasses. I was overjoyed with the hit. Later on in very poor light if any at all… I shot another Ibex at 140m following only the guiding directions of Danny who could see the animal with his bino. I waited for the animal to reach the skyline in practically pitch darkness.

There were two trees and Danny said the animal was near the left tree and I took the shot. Danny was 100% sure the animal was hit well. This was a huge Beceite ibex and it was found dead not far off from where it was shot nearly 11days after. The dense trees and steep terrain made it difficult to find when the day after it was shot we looked for it only to find blood stains on some stones and a musk smell in some undergrowth. For me this was the first time I made a shot in pitch darkness by proxy, following the directions from my PH. I would have preferred another long range shot but the huge size of this trophy was in a way my reward for taking the gamble. The only casualty was my patched up varifocal glasses that was literally smashed with this second shot and a bruised eyebrow. Only 3 days ago I was given the good news that the animal was found.

2nd Ibex hunter, Sandro

Hi Sandro

It’s a pleasure to catch up with you after your adventure in Spain, fresh from the Spanish rockies. Unfortunately my target shooting events this year took up most of my available time and had to skip this one.

Firstly, what attracted you to hunt Ibex in Spain?

It was actually the chamois hunt in the French Pyrenees that really enticed me to go for Ibex. The chamois is a goat-antelope that lives in the mountains. Not easy. Actually pretty challenging even if we were told that the weather was not as wet and as cold as usual. Nonetheless, there were times especially early morning that I really felt the biting cold. It was a different hunt to what I was used to on the South African plains.

Rod: I’ve been on a hunt with you to the French Pyrenees for mouflon and chamois. How is ibex hunting different?

200 meter shot mouflon in pyrenees

Let’s go back to that experience in France – it was quite revealing to me because for the first time in my life, the PH being the good PH that he was, told me that I was not properly rigged for that type of hunt where a shot might have to be taken at some distance that was beyond the capabilities of my Leupold Rifleman scope mounted on my beloved Voere chambered in 270Win. So when we came across a chamois at the peak of a mountain 497m away from us, he told me in no uncertain terms that if I was prepared to go for it, I should do so with his Blaser chambered in 300WBYMag set up with a Zeiss V8 2.8x20x56.

While he was saying all this to me, he was looking at me while doping the elevation on his scope. No wind, not even the slightest breeze. Quite frankly, I had not yet made up my mind because I had never taken that type of shot in my life. I was more than prepared to chicken out because shooting live game is not something to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is a very big responsibility. However, I was more than prepared to take a peep through that scope – out of curiosity more than anything else. And lo and behold! The world through that scope looked so different! Although it was twilight, the world through that scope looked brighter and everything appeared to be so crisp and clear. Irresistible. I heard him whisper to me from behind to place the illuminated red dot on the lower third just behind the shoulder and squeeze the trigger gently. The rifle was firm. No movement. In a leap of faith that the PH must have known what he was doing, I decided to go for it. Wham! The shot was off and right on target! The usual rush of mixed emotions ran all over me but to this day I can hardly believe how it happened! I wanted one of those scopes. I budgeted for one and did not sleep at night until I got a good practically unused second hand one for a relatively good price.

Tell us abit about your rifle setup, what are you using? I learned you switched to the 270win for this hunt from your favorite 375H&H, how come? Do you feel it was a right match and what ammo/bullet were you using? 

Did I want to change my rifle? I pondered on this question up to a point where I could not read anything else other than the advantages and disadvantages of the good old 270Win. At the end of it all, I decided to stay with my 270Win and mount my newly acquired V8 Zeiss on it. I came to the conclusion that with that scope, my 270Win Voere could do what any other calibre could do up to 500 meters even if I had decided that I would not really like to go much beyond the 350m region.

voere Zeiss V8
Getting the 270Win all dialed-in during some practice session surrounded by other game caught all over the World

Which part of Spain did you visit on your hunt? Tell us what is the terrain like and do you recommend any specific equipment? (Clothing, shoes, rain gear)

It was decided to go to Salobre in Castilla La-Marcha for the Iberian Beceite Ibex; one of four subspecies, the others being the South eastern (also known as the Sierra Nevada), the Gredos and the Ronda. Very interesting. It is basically a wild goat that lives in wild rocky mountainous regions. Rather elusive. A medium size very strong and shore footed animal that could weigh around 100kgs. We were reaching heights of about 2,000 meters on terrain that only a wild goat could manage with relative ease. The air too tends to get quite thin up there where at times temperatures in the morning hit lows of about minus 2c. Nonetheless, you would perspire profusely as a result of the physical exercise required. Soon after you stop to take a peep through your binos, you would start to feel your sweat get cold on you.

What do you recommend taking with you on a  hunt like this? 

Do not expect to get very far if you are not equipped with a good pair of trekking boots. It did not rain while we were there but being prepared for a downpour would be a very good idea. This type of adventure is not for the faint-hearted. Very challenging but contemporaneously very rewarding because the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

You asked me about clothing and gear. Well, I always find clothing to be very tricky. In hot weather, it goes without saying that you ought not to be over-dressed. However, in SA, for example, the mornings and evenings would tend to be rather chilly while during the day it could become unbearably hot. You need to protect yourself against the cold even if most PHs in Europe complain that global warming has upped temperatures considerably. At the same time, you have to also take into account that when moving around, you warm up often to the extent that you would sweat profusely. Even when hunting in -13c, I did manage to get unbearably hot and sweaty. Now, that could become not only very uncomfortable especially when your own perspiration starts to get cold on you but also rather dangerous. So I have learnt that in cold weather, it would be best to have good and efficient thermal clothing so as not to have too many layers as to feel already cumbersome and hot in the car on your way to the hunt. During the hunt do not over heat. When you start to get sweaty, pause and cool down. Usually in cold weather, I find that a short break of around 10 mins would be sufficient.

Can you describe the experience on the day you caught that huge ibex? Run us through that morning so we can get a feel of it with you and at what distance was this encounter? 

The Iberian Beceite Ibex eluded me for two and-a-half days for a number of reasons that need not be elaborated upon here. We did see a good number of females, young and old. We also saw a lot of juvenile males and number of good trophy males that were well out of range. We also saw a herd of five beautiful trophy males at war with each other for territory and the female herds within but these were on the periphery of the hunting reserve. We waited for more than an hour but none of them stepped completely inside which meant that we had to go back down and back up elsewhere…It was only in the evening of my third and final day that we managed to get a good Beceite Ibex from 286m. The usual rush of mixed emotions was not lacking but it was ultimately worth the effort. Yet again, my eyes welled up…..apologies but I do not really know how to explain this…..

Hunting in the mountains is not the same as hunting in the South African Plains. Indeed, both are strenuous but they are not quite the same. You would hardly need a .375HH Mag for an Ibex. But I would certainly recommend it for an Eland, for example. On the other hand the .270Win worked well for Impala, Bushpig, Warthog European Boar, Fallow Deer and Red Stag.

I know you’ve done alot of hunting internationally both in Europe, UK and Africa. Can you tell me more how you go about choosing the right outfitter for your needs?

Hunting abroad very much depends on your Outfitter and his staff, the most important of all being his Professional Hunter/s (PH) and Trackers. The Outfitter takes care of the organization and set-up. The PH guides you on the actual hunt. In the African plains you would typically have a PH accompanied by a Tracker, the latter being the expert at tracking the game. I have never come across the use of trackers in Europe.

There are Outfitters and outfitters. While I have had some very good experiences with good, honest and serious outfitters, I have also been very disappointed on one occasion so it would be good to ask around and try to find out as much as you possibly can before you trust a particular hunt to an outfitter. Usually a good Outfitter will be backed by a good team. I find that an Outfitter who asks questions and abides by the rules and regulations would be that outfitter who is worth his/her salt and is reliable. That Outfitter would have a reputation to lose. That reputation would have taken a long time to acquire and a serious Outfitter would not be prepared to put his/her head on the block for anybody. And that’s fine because observance of the rules and regulations are the vehicle that would steer you away from a bad experience.

The PH is equally important for ultimately success heavily depends upon him or her. A good PH would have a very pleasant personality and fun to be with. Nonetheless, s/he has to be strong and not allow for any compromises on issues that matter. The good PH not only gives advice but at times gives orders that you would be expected to obey. It has never happened to me nor have I actually ever witnessed it but I have heard stories of PHs refusing to go on a hunt with a boisterous, insubordinate and incompetent hunter. Apparently rather uncommon but it happens.

What binos are you using?

stalking with Leica Geovid HD-B 10x42
Leica Geovid HD-B 10×42 next to a Swarovski Z8i and Kestrel 4500 before we put the rifle together for the hunt

For the past years I have been using the Leica GEOVID 10×42 with range finder. The range finder is important to know how far the game is for purposes of doping my scope accordingly, if need be.

leica hdb3000
Above – Leica Geovid HD-B 3000

How happy are you with your .270 win Voere hunting rifle?

You know that I am a vociferous fan of the 270Win 🙂 Of course, I have used other calibers but my 270Win is my first natural go-to rifle. It has never let me down. I was once told “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” and it is perhaps for this reason that the good old 270Win was my first hunting rifle and has ever since remained my rifle of choice. I have always loaded my own ammo because I like to do what I think is best and what I think is needed in any given hunting situation rather than being supplied with a “one size fits” all by a manufacturer. Not to undervalue some very good ammo by some reputable manufacturers, mind you, but the satisfaction derived from a good consistent hand loaded round of mine is great.

Bullet choice, what’s your pick Sandro? I know you had done quite some research in the run up to this hunt. Did your experience level up with the research you had done previously?

270Win Voere
Sandro’s choice – 150grn Nosler Accubond doing some 2600ft/s. This load shot superbly well at 400m during range testing with vertical spread of less than 2″ (5cm)

I am a firm believer of monolithic copper bullets for a number of reasons. I first had a go with them in South Africa and when I saw them work from my Sako Hunter 85 chambered in .375H&H, I decided that it is time for me to switch all my loads to monolithic copper bullet heads. Knowing that Ibex would probably entail a shot to be taken at a distance ranging from 200 up to 500 meters, I spent about 2 years trying to lay my hands on some Barnes 130grn LRX for my 270 Win. Little did I know that I had embarked on quite an impossible task. There came a time when I gave up and turned to Hornady ELDX at 145 grain but these too proved to be difficult. As time was pressing, I then decided to settle for the Nosler Acubond (white tip) at 150grns being the only reputable bullet that I managed to find in some very modest quantity. This bullet came as highly recommended having a very good ballistic co-efficient.

270win ladder test
Sandro setups behind his Voere during a load development testing session carried out to 515m

Considerable research went into the choice of this bullet and the rest of the recipe that would make a good round in my 270Win for the upcoming Ibex hunt. As you know we ultimately settled for this 150 gran white-tipped Nosler Accubond bullet on 56.5grns of Vit N165 charged with Sellier and Bellot large rifle primers.

100m zero Voere 270win
A clover leaf group shot by Sandro at 100m while setting up his scope after initial bore sighting. (high shot)

A stiff round but nothing that one could not handle. It worked consistently well on the range and indeed, it also did its job in the field. Which brings me to my last concluding remark finishing off with a question to you, if you don’t mind….

Voere lbw 270win test
Testing ammo and training at the rifle range in Italy some time before the hunt shooting targets to 515meters

The proof of the bullet is in the shooting- how did it perform for you eventually?

The Nosler Accubond is reputed to be an efficient bullet because it is meant to open and mushroom consistently on impact by virtue of its white tip while retaining much of its integrity. Yet at 286m it went cleanly through and in actual fact I could hardly see with my own eyes any of this expansion. Is 286m not sufficient to cause the bullet to open up and mushroom or would it be expected to do that at 300, 400 or even 500 meters or more?

3rd Ibex Hunter – a taxidermist by profession

Hi Mark,

After a lot of planning and Whatsapp chats, your hunt has come true and with a bang I would dare add. Glad to catch catch up with you today. Unfortunately I was not there to spot for you on this hunt but I see that you have actually made head way and came home with your Capra! Ok over to you, tell us about it.

What attracted you to hunt Ibex in Spain?

As you know well i’m a capra enthusiast . Capra hunting is the most difficult hunt you can find. In Spain there are 4 different Ibex, Gredos, Beceite, Ronda and Sierra Nevada, this year i decided to start from the Beceite and booked for a Sierra Nevada next year. 

I’ve been on a mountain hunt with you to the French Pyrenees for mouflon and chamois last year. How is ibex hunting different?

Terrain is very similar as both animals inhabit rocky areas but altitude in the  Pyrenees was about 500meters more.

What is so special about ibex hunting?

Ibex hunting is physically demanding especially if you want to do a correct stalk. Mountain climbing is a must and it’s very challenging. Shooting distances can vary a lot , if you’re lucky you can shoot at close range but you may also end up taking shots from 315 meters to 500+ meters as happened to us on this hunt. 

Which part of Spain did you visit on your hunt? Tell us what is the terrain like and do you recommend any specific equipment? (Clothing, shoes, rain gear)

We were at Castilla-La-Mancha , awesome mountainous areas  that can reach 1500meters altitude. Good hiking boots are a must ,comfortable camouflage clothing is essential. Weather was on our side and luckily we didn’t use any rain gear. 

Did you spend a lot of time glassing for these Ibex and what binos are you using?

We split in 2 different areas. Where I was the first day we walked about 15km, glassing several times, observing Ibex and figuring out if one can be shot or not, but unfortunately didn’t encounter the desired old trophy. I was using bushnell 10*42 binoculars and Leica CRF 2400-R range finder.

Tell us abit about your rifle setup. Were you using your 30-06? Do you feel it was a right match and what ammo/bullet were you using?

browning Maral swarovski z8i 3.5-28x50 P
For this hunt, the suppressor had to be removed as they are not allowed in Spain unlike France.

I was using my Browning Maral in 30-06, with Swarovski Z8i scope 3.5-28*50 and Hornady Precision hunter 178 gr ELD-X bullets.   We’ve had previous successful results with this ammo in France bagging a mouflon with a single  shot at just shy of 400meters. I felt confident that with a well placed shot i’ll have a good result for this hunt .

What’s the average distance you get on an ibex shot? I know this is always a hot issue but realistically speaking what distance are you expecting shots to be around here? I’m aware you have just kitted up a 300RUM for the next mountain hunt.

300RUM ammo
300 RUM with a lighter bullet 150gr Scirocco bullet.

Before i travelled to Spain the outfitter told me that average shot will be 250m and in fact I shot mine at 315m, my colleague shot his Ibex at 500m. For next year’s Siberian Ibex hunt, I know that distances can be further out and weather can be nasty! After talking to friends and outfitters I realised that I needed more horsepower to better buck the wind, still 30cal but higher velocity for this hunt so I opted for a 300RUM,  Leica PRS  scope and Hornady 220gr Precision hunter bullets. I’m also trying hornady’s factory offering to see what works best in my setup. The rifle is very stable and features a tierone bipod.

300RUM remington Sendero
300RUM Remington Sendero kitted out for the next Siberian Ibex hunt in 2022!

I know you’ve done alot of hunting internationally. Can you tell me more how you go about choosing the right outfitter for your needs?

Being a taxidermist by profession, I meet a lot of hunters in different countries so I can see and hear results and opinions . Further more I also meet outfitters at events like game fairs . Then when I decide which Capra will be next, I already have a good idea who to contact.

Can you describe the experience on the day you caught your ibex? Run us through that morning so we can get a feel of it with you and at what distance was this encounter?

So the first day was a 15km walk in the mountains with no result while my colleague that was hunting in another area, shot 2 very nice adult Ibex. So as there were more Ibex in that area it was decided that I will hunt there too the following morning.

We woke up early as we had a 2 hr drive. As soon as we arrived. I saw a group of females about 300m. On further observation we saw an old billy that we were seeing only part of his horns as he was tucked nicely behind a small tree.  After waiting for about 40 minutes (which seem endless) this ibex decided to move and as soon as he was completely visible – I shot!

He was a hit but he ran about 30m and stopped again. He stood tall with it’s front feet on a rock so I had a clear view of the back when I squeezed the second round off and hit the spine that made the Ibex fall instantly. That was the fun part! Now that the real work begins. Had to cross a small valley with about 2 meters vegetation and thorns to get to the other side of the mountain to continue climbing and that was hell !!  Finally we reached the Ibex , examined where the bullets impacted, skinned it and headed back!  We packed everything in the car, and finally another successful hunt went into my diary. Skins and horns are currently at a tannery to be treated and hopefully in a few weeks, i’ll have them in my workshop so I can mount them in the position I like ! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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